As a birth doula, you will provide your clients with a doula postpartum visit. This is not the same things as a postpartum doula’s visit or shift. This doula postpartum visit is typically part of a birth doula’s service package.
When a client signs with us, we typically offer:
- Two prenatal visits, also sometimes called consultations
- Continuous labor support – on call from 37-42 weeks
- An hour or two of support immediately following the birth
- A postpartum visit, often within 1-6 weeks
Each doula’s services may vary slightly. However, the above is typical of many birth doulas. However, what does a doula postpartum visit look like?
Patience With Scheduling Doula Postpartum Visit
In the early postpartum, it is common to feel overwhelmed. From postpartum visits with midwives or OBs, to frequent pediatrician visits, new parents frequently feel overwhelmed. When you add in visitors, figuring out meals, and everyone calling to inquire about the baby, one more visit can feel like a lot.
Every client will react differently during the postpartum phase. Some will be counting down the moments until you schedule with them. Others may take three or more days to respond to you. Do not take any of it personally and understand how busy new parents can be.
When you’ve scheduled your visit, be sure to plan. How can you be helpful and not add to their list of to-dos? Consider bringing them coffee, so they are not tempted to offer you a drink. Ask if they need anything, perhaps they forgot to grab something at the store, you can bring a gallon of milk to ease their burden for the day.
Try to inquire about baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule and when the parents try to nap. While your schedule might be tight, do your best to ensure you will not be there at a time they are typically trying to nap.
Be There to Listen – Do Not Tell Them What They Experienced
One thing which many doulas run into is seeing a birth and realizing their clients experienced the birth in a very different way. For example, we may see unnecessary intervention and potentially a pushy provider. However, the client might feel the experience was positive.
On the other end, we might see a perfectly textbook birth experience, but the client may have found the experience intense and overwhelming.
It is important we not let our perspective of their birth interfere with their experience of the birth. Listen and allow them the space to debrief. Use active listening and validate their feelings. While we experience birth often as doulas, our clients are not likely to have much birth experience.
We should also be there to listen to their experience as new parents. It is a big adjustment. The lack of sleep, the postpartum physical recovery, the changes in relationship can all be a lot. Providing an understanding and non-judgmental ear is vital as they process early parenthood.
If we notice our clients are experiencing birth trauma, more than the baby blues, or struggling with adjustments, it is important we offer resources and referrals to area therapists who specialize in the reproductive years. We can also refer them to parent support groups, infant feeding groups, and more.
Answer Questions – Be Cautious About Unsolicited Advice
As doulas, we are typically aware of evidenced-based feeding, infant sleep, and infant care. While this is important to providing clients with education, it is important we tread lightly during a postpartum visit.
If parents ask us questions, we should answer with evidenced based information. However, if we notice they are doing something differently than we would stop and ask yourself this first:
- Is what you see dangerous?
- Are you seeing the situation as what you would do rather than an issue with real safety?
- Have they simply made a different parenting choice than you would have but it is not against evidence nor unsafe?
- Can you provide the support or information without them seeing it as judgmental?
For example, perhaps you expected your client to exclusively breastfeed based on their prenatal goals. However, you come for the visit and you notice them bottle feeding. It would not be appropriate to jump into why one should wait to introduce a bottle, potential dangers of formula, or anything of the sort. If your client asks about breastfeeding challenges, share resources and information.
If you client is struggling with basic breastfeeding initiation, latching, etc., find out if they would like your help or a referral. However, if your client has decided to combo feed or switch to bottles all together, it is vital you be supportive. New parents face judgement all around, often most from themselves. Reassure your client that you understand they are doing their absolute best and you are available or can refer them for additional support.
To have a positive doula postpartum visit, you want to use patience, active listening, empathy, and support. Find out if you can provide practical support. Refer them to resources as needed. And ultimately, be flexible.
Not already a certified doula? Get started today! Register now and your training will ensure you can offer excellent support from the prenatal visits through the birth and ending with a wonderful postpartum visit.